KLM has unveiled its new long haul fully-flat seat today, at an aircraft hanger at Amsterdam Schiphol airport.

As previously reported on Business Traveller (see online news, November 10, 2011 and April 25, 2012), KLM will launch its first fully-flat business class seat in July this year.

The carrier’s Boeing 747-400s will be converted first; a total of 22 aircraft, with the work scheduled to be completed by April 2014.

The seat is the Diamond seat from BEAerospace, similar to that of United BusinessFirst.

The fully-flat seat includes storage spaces under the TV screens, and features five key colours – aubergine, dark brown, midnight blue, cobalt and dark grey.

The number of seats in the revamped B747 business class cabin will be reduced from 42 to 35, with three ‘solo’ seats being created in 1A, 4A and 4E. A comparison of the current and new seating layouts can be seen here.

As had been widely leaked (Tom Otley reports), KLM’s new World Business Class seat is the Diamond Seat manufactured by B/E Aerospace, but as with all airlines which have taken the seat, a fair amount of customisation has taken place, including the configuration, as KLM board member and managing director Erik Varwijk was keen to point out.

“It is true that other airlines have the Diamond seat, but our new seat is not the same. Our seat is better than Lufthansa’s, for instance. Lufthansa’s seat is 1.98m long, while ours is 2.07m. Our seats are parallel, not in a “v” position, and our seat back screens are 17 inches, not 15 inches.”

The new seats will be fitted to the first of KLM’s 22 B747-400 fleet in June 2013, with the inaugural flight of the first KLM aircraft with the new interior including the new seat in July 2013.

Over the course of the following 12 months, the rollout will see the rest of the fleet completed by summer 2014. This is a very quick retrofit, at least partly because there is some regulatory issue with the old business class seat, I understand, which means it would have to be phased out.

Once the B747 fleet have been retrofitted, then the B777-200 fleet will be fitted, though with a slight adaptation of the seat. Meanwhile economy class, although it will have a “soft” refit of the fabrics, will not see new seating.

The IFE system on the B747-400 aircraft will also remain the same as it is now – a Panasonic 3000 system. Although CEO Peter Hartman said that the cost of the new World Business Class seats being fitted is large “about the same as buying two new planes” in his phrase, the cost of installing a new IFE system would add considerably to it.

The intention is for the B747-400 aircraft to be gradually retired from KLM’s fleet starting in three to four years’ time, replaced by B787-900 aircraft, with AF-KLM having already placed a large order, though Erik Varwijk  said that some of the B747-400s will continue to fly until 2020.

There are plenty of pictures of the seat, and we hope to get a seatmap to see the configuration, though it is clear that the puzzle of where to put the passengers feet has been solved by having a slight staggered configuration, with the fully flat bed being achieved by the footrest being to one side of the seat in front.

As expected, the fully flat seat takes up more room on the aircraft than the existing seat, and so the number of business class seats has been reduced, from 42 to 35 aboard the Boeing 747-400. KLM is keen to emphasise the length of the bed, not least as Peter Hartman pointed out, the “Dutch are very tall people”.

The seat was unveiled by having a “passenger” sit in it for an imaginary day time flight from Amsterdam to New York. A giant screen behind showed various aspects of the journey, from boarding the aircraft, to having a meal service, to watching IFE, and even dozing while sitting up in the seat, images of those dreams appearing on the screen. To see some videos of that (similar to the one at the top of this piece), click here.

There was then a presentation in several parts concerning the food (Jonnie & Therese Boer), the wine, the cutlery and tableware (Marcel Wanders) and lastly, Hella Jongerius.

Visit klm.com, and to have your say on the new seat on our forum, click here.